A college election impersonation row has put the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the students’ wing of the ruling CPI(M), on a sticky wicket.
The row erupted after a leading Malayalam daily reported how Visakh, an area committee secretary of the SFI, tried to impersonate the elected University Union Councillor (UUC), a female student.
He had not contested the election to the students’ union of the Christian College at Kattakada on the Thiruvananthapuram outskirts.
The college management, on Monday, 22 May, suspended Principal GJ Shyju, who has gone into hiding along with Visakh. Meanwhile, the police have registered a case based on a complaint by the registrar of Kerala University.
The CPI(M) has constituted a two-member committee to probe the incident and suggest corrective measures.
With the university authorities adopting a tough stand by cancelling the union election and approaching the police with criminal complaints, pressure is mounting on the party to initiate action against those who conspired to pull off the drama.
With the CPI(M) taking a tough stand, party MLAs IB Satheesh and G Stephen distanced themselves from the incident, though they were in charge of the college’s SFI unit. They explained their stand in writing.
Interestingly, principal Shyju is the leader of a teachers’ union affiliated with the Congress.
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Instructions have been given to the college management to initiate a probe and disciplinary action against the principal and terminate him from service if he is found guilty.
According to university authorities, elections for all college unions under the university were held on 12 December.
In the case of Kattakkada College, SFI candidates Aromal and AS Anakha were the elected UUCs.
As per the university statute, the University Union Chairperson, secretary, and other office bearers were selected from the elected UUCs.
Each college principal is required to forward details of the elected UUCs to the university on signed letterheads.
Last week, Malayala Manorama reported that A Visakh’s name was included — by excluding Anakha’s — in the principal’s letter to the university.
The report also said Visakh, a first-year BSc student of the college, had not contested the election.
The Kattakkada area committee secretary of the SFI, Visakh was known to be close to several CPI(M) leaders and was tipped to be the University Union Chairperson.
Even as the local media followed up the controversy and raised questions over the democratic credentials of the CPI(M), the party remained tightlipped.
Meanwhile, several party leaders approached the state leadership seeking tough action against those responsible for putting the party in a bad light.
According to party insiders, a minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet who grew up through the SFI, rang up the college principal and forced him to replace Anakha in the letter.
The controversy could take a new dimension if the principal revealed the minister’s name and other party leaders who had contacted him.
It is yet to be seen whether the internal CPI(M) probe would reach the party leaders responsible for the incident.
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CPI(M) leaders want strict action
Several CPI(M) leaders at the state level believe that steps must be initiated to rein in SFI leaders who landed the party in awkward situations on numerous occasions in the recent past.
Charges are rife that the student wing often crossed limits with the tacit support of a section of the party’s leaders.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader VD Satheesan accused the CPI(M) of retaining the SFI as a pack of youngsters with criminal backgrounds.
Regarding the impersonation row, Satheesan said such an incident had never occurred earlier.
He demanded a comprehensive probe and sought to know who had forced the college principal to make such a decision.
On 21 May, the Kattakkada police registered a cheating case against the principal and Visakh. Both have been slapped with charges of impersonation, breach of trust, and forgery.
Earlier, the principal told news channels that Anakha had expressed willingness to step aside for Vishak. However, according to the rules, if an elected councillor resigns, an election should be conducted to fill up the post.
But Vishak’s name was forwarded without him contesting the election.
University Union Chairperson election postponed
Following the incident, Shyju was removed from the role of district secretary of the Congress-affiliated Kerala Private College Teachers Association (KPCTA).
The University Union Chairperson election of Kerala University, scheduled to be held on 26 May, too, has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the Congress’s student wing KSU and Youth Congress have launched protests against the malpractices in college elections.
The university issued orders withdrawing the approval to appoint Shyju as the Drawing and Dispensing Officer of the college. The college management has also instituted an internal probe into the controversy.
The Syndicate meeting of the university held on Saturday also directed the college to initiate disciplinary action against Shyju, failing which the university would adopt measures, including withdrawing its affiliation.
The registrar was authorised to recover the financial loss caused by the cancellation of the election from the principal. Shyju has been suspended from all academic bodies and examination duties for five years.
A team of senior officials will also be constituted to verify the details of UUCs received from each college.
Also read: How CPI(M) in Kerala displays double standards
Disgrace to varsity
At a press conference held in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, VC in-charge, Mohanan Kunnummal, said Shyju was removed from the post of principal as his act was a disgrace to the university.
“The university officials will check the UUC list from all colleges concerning the election. The university has limitations in holding a further investigation into the issue. But the police can investigate it,” he said.
“The election results should be informed to the university on the next day of the election. The election held at Kattakkada College will not be cancelled. The college has been directed to submit the list of UUCs within a week,” he further said.
“The list will be published once the college authorities submit it. If there are any complaints, they will be addressed. After that, the university union election will be held,” he added.
Meanwhile, Anakha reportedly told the police that her name was deleted from the list without her consent.
When contacted, Kerala PCC president K Sudhakaran said the Opposition would launch agitations if the police and the government limited the investigations to the principal and Visakh.
He said all those who conspired must be brought to book.
When pointed out that Shyju belonged to a union affiliated with the Congress, he said he was ashamed of it.